Troubleshooting Electronic Locks

Most troubleshooting will be performed when you have completed the wiring and try to use the system or on a service call, where you have to determine why the door is not locking of unlocking. Electric locks are both mechanical as well as electrical. The...


Most troubleshooting will be performed when you have completed the wiring and try to use the system or on a service call, where you have to determine why the door is not locking of unlocking.

Electric locks are both mechanical as well as electrical. The physical element of the device does the locking and the electrical element controls the clocking or unlocking.

Electric locks are either failsafe (normally power is applied to maintain locked condition; when power is removed the lock releases) or fail secure (no power applied the device is locked; when power is applied, the device unlocks).

For diagnostic purposes, electric locking systems can be divided into three sections:

Power Source

Logical Control and Wiring

The Locking Device

When a call comes in for the troubleshooting of an electric locking system, I always hope that whoever took the call bothered to gather some information about the project.

Too many times the technician will call in to report that he went over the door locking system with a magnifying glass, but was unable to find anything wrong. Then you find out he was looking at the wrong door.

Some companies keep a record of installations. Some companies put qualified personnel on the phone to take information from callers. Some don’t.

We have a couple of folks in our company who won’t tell you anything. You are lucky to obtain the address of the client, much less information on who did the installation, when it was installed (in or out of warranty?), what door it is, the nature of the malfunction, the kind of equipment that is installed on the door, and who the tech should speak to on site.

Not obtaining adequate information beforehand almost guarantees it will require more than one trip to the site to complete the repair.

So the first item you will need to troubleshoot a locking system is INFORMATION. Ask the following questions:

Was the system properly designed/installed in the first place?

Is there power (to the lock)?

Is there physical damage to the lock or door assembly?

Is the access control system working properly?

Once on site, you need to locate your contact person and confirm the door you are supposed to be repairing and the malfunction.

Your customer may be a terrific person and a highly valuable member of society, but not able to articulate the issue they are experiencing with the system. A physical inspection of the door and components would be an excellent starting point.

Loose door hardware, defective door closers or worn hinges can all be reasons for the door to not be working as expected, and looking the door over is quick and easy. Remember that an exit door which does not latch, or freely swing open from the inside to permit egress is considered and obstructed exit, and is a life safety hazard. State clearly on your service ticket that a life safety issue exists which needs immediate attention.

Once you’ve determined the door is not a death trap, you can continue troubleshooting.

Is there power to the lock or to the system? Sometimes the power supply is a wall wart type that someone has kicked loose, or it has been unplugged so someone could use a vacuum cleaner or corn popper in the receptacle.

Another cutie is the receptacle being used for the power supply is on a wall switch, producing mystical symptoms. A loose wire on the power supply is also possible especially if the wall wart has been swinging on the wire.

Often when locking systems are deployed, the power supply is inside a metal enclosure which uses a line cord for line voltage. We often do this to avoid having to get an electrician to hard-wire the power supply. Hard-wiring is when an electrician makes a permanent connection of the line voltage input of the power supply to an existing or new branch circuit in the structure. The electrician should verify that if it an existing branch circuit that the total load does not exceed that rating of the wiring or circuit breaker. Depending on the lock and the environment in which the lock is being installed, the nature of the other equipment on the circuit may be relevant to the proper operation of the lock or the door/access control.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend